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Zoe Jackson: “Priya has helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses”

The winner of the Virgin Media Pioneers mentoring competition tells Startups what she’s learning from her mentor, Priya Lakhani

In 2006, at the age of 16, I set up Living the Dream Performing Arts Company. Over the past five years the company has grown beyond recognition and being an entrepreneur has certainly lived up to all my expectations.

I have learnt a huge amount since starting the business and I still feel like there’s a lot more for me to learn.

Since joining the Virgin Media Pioneers network I have been given the unique opportunity to receive mentoring from Masala Masala founder Priya Lakhani. It’s so refreshing to have a new perspective on my business and how I can take it further – getting advice from such a successful entrepreneur has been an eye-opener to say the least.

Priya has not only encouraged me to think about strategies to expand and grow Living the Dream, but she has helped me understand myself and my strengths and weaknesses as a young entrepreneur.

A committed and enthusiastic mentor, Priya has advised me to take a step back and really think about where I need to focus my energy in order to successfully expand and diversify the business. She recommended that I consider moving the business in a more structured and step-by-step manner and has encouraged me to create a solid business plan to support my ideas.

We have discussed the key ways to drive the business forward, including the importance of delegation and time management. My main struggle at the moment is not having enough time to achieve what I want, so I took the first step to hire an administrative assistant to take the pressure away from the jobs that are time-consuming and distracting. I now have three detailed plans for the different aspects of my business, which has given me a better understanding of where the potential profits in my business lie.   Priya has also helped me focus on my own personal growth. One of the things she said that really made an impact was to stop saying ‘we achieved this’, but to instead focus on saying ‘I have achieved this’. Yes, I have a fantastic team which has helped me get Living the Dream to where it is today, but we agreed that for a young female entrepreneur, it is sometimes difficult to project your personal achievements and take ownership of them.   Another focus of the mentoring sessions has been the relationships with important clients and how I conduct myself and present my business in meetings, which has given me a new perspective on the value of my own self worth.

The mentoring scheme has been hugely beneficial to me personally and to my business and I feel very lucky to have been involved with the Virgin Media Pioneers’ Control Shift Campaign. I have received advice that I wouldn’t have got elsewhere, that will really help the future development of my business.

Starting up on your own is sometimes scary and often difficult, especially for young entrepreneurs and therefore mentoring schemes like this are invaluable. I would advise anyone who is launching their first venture to consider taking part in such schemes – there is no better source of advice.

Young entrepreneurs are being matched up with high-profile mentors as part of a new campaign from Virgin Media Pioneers called Control Shift: The Rise of the Young Entrepreneurs. Masala Masala founder Priya Lakhani is mentoring Zoe Jackson, founder of Living the Dream youth dance company; Joe Cohen, founder of Seatwave, is mentoring Abdul Kahn, founder of ratethatcurry.com; and Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, founder of the Black Farmer, is working with Ronke Ige, founder of cosmetics business Emi & Ben. Registration is now open for the second Mentor Match-Up competition. For more information, visit: http://www.virginmediapioneers.com

You can read Priya Lakhani’s account of mentoring Zoe here

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